In February, 2014 Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona 500 for the second time. I’ve followed NASCAR for a long time and have really come to respect Dale Jr. Time after time he demonstrates positive characteristics while living in the shadow of a near-legend racer and in front of a legion of his father’s–and now his–fans, often referred to as “Jr. Nation.” That’s a lot of pressure for one person to live up to and he does it well.
When he won NASCAR’s “biggest race” he was overjoyed. He spent the next several hours and days celebrating and doing a whirlwind media tour. He also got active on Twitter (and does a great job with it.) Here are a few things I learned from watching him through this experience:
Junior was like a little kid. He had a genuine smile and truly enjoyed the media tour, in part because he was able to share it with friends. Here’s one of the responses he gave to a fan:
Don’t forget who got you there.
One of the first things Junior did in victory lane, before even talking to the media, was hug each of his team members. I’ve not seen it done to that degree before. He made the media wait. He wanted to share the moment with the guys who got him to victory lane.
Honor those behind the scenes.
Later in the evening, Junior gathered with the media photographers to have a group picture with them. This time they got to be in front of the camera. Junior knows the media does play an important role in the sport and honored them.
Keep Your Promises
Junior has had a Twitter account for years, but he was reluctant to use it. However, he said that if he won a championship or the Daytona 500 again, he would get active. Sure enough he did. His first tweet was within hours after the win.
That first tweet, which thrilled many fans, showed Junior’s appreciation for others. In it he asked how his fans were doing and acknowledged the big WE of sports.
[callout]Tonight seemed like as good a night as any to join Twitter. How is everyone doin? #2XDaytona500Champ [/callout]
Nearly every week now, Dale or his girlfriend Amy tweets out a photo of the Scripture verse that Stevie Waltrip writes out to go on the dashboard of his car.
Retain your Focus
The very next week, Junior got back to business. His spotter had to miss the race, but with a backup spotter, a crew chief he knows is leaving at the end of this year for a media career, and his enthusiastic team, he came in second in Phoenix. He didn’t rest on the laurels of the Daytona 500. He had a new challenge ahead of him. Yet I’m sure he will never forget the beginning of the 2014 season and I—along with many fans–would love to see him crowned champion at the end of it.